A man suspected of headbutting Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp after storming onto the pitch has been charged with assault and faces a life-long ban from his football club.
Robert Biggs, 30, of Derbyshire, will appear at Nottingham Magistrate’s Court today after being held in custody overnight.
He is accused of being one of hundreds of fans to invade the pitch following Nottingham Forest’s victory over Sheffield United on Tuesday night, which was one in a penalty shoot-out.
In a video, Sharp, who was left needing stitches, can be seen falling to the floor after being headbutted by a raging spectator following the Championship semi-final second leg play-off at the City Ground.
Biggs has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and going on to the playing area at a football match.
Assistant Chief Constable Rob Griffin, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: ‘I am pleased we have now charged a suspect in connection with this assault.
In a video, Billy Sharp (pictured), who was left needing stitches, can be seen falling to the floor after being headbutted by a raging spectator following the Championship semi-final second leg play-off at the City Ground.
Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was attacked by a pitch invader after their play-off semi-final defeat against Forest on Tuesday night
Billy Sharp posted his views on Instagram yesterday morning after the incident the night before
‘This is a result of hard work done throughout the night and today involving numerous police departments.
‘We continue to work closely with both football clubs who are supporting our investigation following this incident.
‘Cases such as this will hopefully serve as a deterrent to anyone thinking of getting involved in violent disorder at football matches.
‘Incidents are treated extremely seriously by the force and football clubs and people involved will be held to account.’
The FA said it had launched an investigation after Forest’s victory, which set up a meeting with Huddersfield in the final on May 29, was overshadowed.
Forest confirmed the attacker would be banned for life and apologised to Sheffield United, but are bracing themselves for a significant punishment.
Sharp, who used to play for Forest, said in the morning after the attack: ‘One mindless idiot ruined what was an unbelievable night of football.
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was left furious by the incident involving Sharp
As fans spilled on to the pitch to celebrate their victory on penalties (pictured), one ran towards Sharp
‘Congratulations to Nottingham Forest on their victory and good luck in the final. As an ex Forest player I will not let one scumbag ruin my respect for the Forest fans.
‘Incredibly proud to be captain of this group of Sheffield United players, they gave their all and can hold their heads up high. We will be back and go again. Thanks for all your messages and support after the incident.’
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom called for the fan to be jailed.
He said: ‘Billy was minding his own business and he was assaulted, blind-sided. It was cowardly. Billy is shaken up and he needed stitches. We have the footage.
‘We always see people talking about player safety but nothing is ever done about it.’
An English Football League (EFL) statement said: ‘We recognise this lawlessness is being conducted by a small minority of individuals and the majority attending matches are a credit to their club.
‘However, it is not acceptable for fans to enter the field of play at any time given the EFL’s objective is to ensure our matches remain safe and welcoming for all.
‘This summer we will consider what further measures are at our disposal, including the potential use of capacity reductions or similar mitigations. Punitive action will follow for those who continue to disregard ground regulations and break the law at matches.’
The English Football League (EFL) has condemned a small minority of ‘lawless’ supporters causing unrest in England. (Pictured: Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL)
After Jack Grealish, then at Aston Villa, was punched by a fan at Birmingham in March 2019, the FA warned of increased penalties.
Martin Glenn, chief executive at the time, wrote: ‘The FA has the power to take disciplinary action for spectators or unauthorised persons encroaching on to the pitch. In addition, we will be looking into what further action may be necessary going forward.’
Under FA Rule E20b, clubs face anything from a warning through to stadium closure and points deductions if found guilty of failing to take adequate action.
Forest fans ran on when Brice Samba saved from Morgan Gibbs-White to send Forest to Wembley, while flares were also thrown.
The PFA said: ‘We are shocked and appalled. Security and fan disorder need to be reviewed, and we will be raising player safety with clubs, leagues and the UK Football Policing Unit. There is no place in football for this.’